Anita Hochman New Paintings

When artists bring their attention to nature, they try and capture those moods that a landscape, seascape or skyscape excites in us. Sometimes they are semiconscious or half-formed feelings. Moonlight reflected in mid-ocean, a sea crashing on a deserted beach, an isolated forest: these can be lonely and spiritual, or thrilling, even heartbreaking, things.

Looking up into the sky is to immerse your eyes in immensity. Those regions of the sky are ecstatic (we talk of being on cloud nine) but can evoke terror as well as rapture. Partly to do with feeling of being unanchored from the ground, and it can give you a temporary loss of self: where am I? even, who am I?

Clouds bewilder you with their changes of form. Meteorologists classify them of course (cumulus, means heap, stratus etc), but they don’t stand still. They wander like lost sheep through the infinite corners of space until air currents nip at their heels and round them up.

Clouds are already half figurative, half abstract. They seem partly visible, partly invisible as they ruffle along, befuddling the eye.

Naturally there are some great precursors in the long history of painting – for example, look at the skies in Corot, in Constable, in Monet or late Turner.

What I get from Anita Hochman’s lovely paintings is how skilfully she catches them on the hop, with such deft economy of brushstroke, and with a neat narrow palette of silvery tones and hazy coppery hues. How she gets their tricky subtleties and vague turbulences on a few centimetres of board or canvas; how she can register them like that even as they alternatively ravish and frustrate normal seeing. It’s not so much how well observed they are as the way those painted smears materialise without becoming fixed shapes: like real clouds in a real sky, not cartoon clouds.

With subtle underpainting Anita Hochman renders filmy clouds interacting with the muted blues of the sky, that are almost two indeterminate planes. She uses luminous (or interference) paints that partly reflect and partly refract the acute angles of a setting sun or rising sun: that transition time between darkness and light. In some pictures they blend with the mirrored surface of a beach after a withdrawing wave. In one or two a tiny discernable figure, barely a pinpoint of paint, coheres the bottom half of a picture.

Note Hochman’s light touch with remnant clouds that are like rags shredded to gauzy thinness; all those stratus clouds that refuse to take shape, that might be fog, or mist, or wet drapes.

A lot of punters don’t get abstraction. Yet nature itself is great at abstraction; just stare at a puddle of water or the bark of a tree. Anita Hochman’s cloudscapes hover between naturalism and abstraction. She gets rid of everything except colour, colour relation, and atmosphere, with the intention of stirring emotion and conveying inner experience, which she does very well.

George Alexander, June 2012
Depot Gallery, Sydney